Eugene was equal parts nervous, elated and terrified. They were finally going to get to show off A.D.A.M. and he was going to get the chance to give the middle finger to those naysayers who said it was never going to work. Well figuratively speaking anyway.
Victoria worried him a little bit though; she seemed more and more distracted. He knew the machine had infiltrated portions of her brain but the extent of the damage, if there was any damage, was impossible to determine. Despite her apparent absent-mindedness he knew she was paying attention to her surroundings. When they had been signing in at the concierge for example, the attendant had asked for the license plate of their rental car and while he was digging through his rental documents she had rattled it off as though it was her cell number.
Honestly the main worry about her that he had was that she was going to slip up and reveal more about how intertwined she and the machine were than he was comfortable having other people know. They were in the elevator now and even though he had subtly attempted to take his hand from hers she either didn’t notice or didn’t want to let go. It was interesting how the slightest physical contact with another human being changed your perception of them.
“Doc, something’s wrong.” She squeezed his hand before letting go and taking what he could only call a defensive martial arts stance. The elevator shuddered to a halt between the eleventh and twelfth floors. A calm voice sounded through a hidden speaker.
“Please excuse the inconvenience; we are currently experiencing technical difficulties. We will evacuate any guests who are inside this elevator as soon as possible.” Above them the sound of automatic gunfire erupted. Eugene could hear Victoria’s phone chime. Once, twice, thrice, then an ongoing string of notifications.
“No! You are not going to TOUCH my Yeun-Ja!” She was stepping out of her impressive stiletto heels.
“Ummm, Victoria?” She wasn’t listening to him; he didn’t even exist.
“I must be careful she loves this dress. She would never forgive me if we ruined the dress.” Walking to the door, Victoria popped the lock on the access panel next to the emergency call phone with a pin she pulled from her hair.
“What the hell are you doing?” The speed with which she had opened the lock with nothing but a hair clip astounded him.
“I need to get the door open; we are almost to our floor. Out the door is the easiest way to get up there, I cannot let them get her!” She had pulled an electronic panel out and paused for a second, looking at the tangle of wires in her hands.
“Victoria, you’re going to get fried! This isn’t a car, you can’t hotwire it.”
“I downloaded the schematic and it looks like I can short circuit across here and deactivate the door lock.” She yanked a wire out of one side of the panel and touched it to the metal side of the electrical box. There was a pop, the lights flickered momentarily and she looked at him over her shoulder.
“Doctor Arlington, can you pry the door open? I have to hold this so the lock does not re-activate.”
Eugene made his way to the door and gave it a doubtful frown. Forcing his fingers into the rubber between the two doors, he pulled to either side and was surprised when the doors slid silently open with minimal resistance. Victoria was already at his side and looking up into the dimly lit elevator shaft.
“I cannot climb up through here, not enough clearance. I must go through the top access panel. Can you cup your hands so I can reach high enough to unlatch it?”
“I’m not doing anything until you tell me what’s going on. Who is Yeun-Ja? Who is after her? What exactly do you think YOU’RE going to be able to do about it?” Eugene crossed his arms and leaned against the wall.
“I comprehend your concern for me.” Victoria’s radiant smile might have made him weak at the knees at any other time, “I do not have time to explain right now. Her life really is hanging in the balance. I swear, I will tell you everything once she is safe.” She gave him a pleading look, “She saved my life.”
“It’s too dangerous, you don’t even know what’s waiting for you up there.” He crossed his arms harder, willing her to listen as though that would work. “I’m responsible for you Victoria, I can’t just send you into the unknown to try and find someone you don’t even know is there!”
Her eyes narrowed, “I can do it without you; we would just go through the door. I am just worried about tearing the dress. I do know what is up there; I have hacked into a security feed and I am streaming the data live right now. Look, I do not have time to deal with this; either help me or get the hell out of my way.”
He bent and laced his fingers together, shaking his head in defeat. “OK, but you owe me a FULL explanation after this is over.”
She gave a little shrug, “Victoria will tell you whatever she feels like. I won’t tell you anything without her permission.”
While he was trying to process that she walked over to him, stood on his cupped hands and reached up to push one of the ceiling tiles back. Her efforts revealed an access hatch just as she had predicted. Victoria leaned forward; her thigh bracing against the side of his face and neck for support. After a few wonderful seconds she had it open and gracefully pulled herself through.
“We will be right back. Just sit tight and get ready to catch us if we need you to.”
Eugene let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, things were getting out of control fast. He realized the AI had completely exceeded its parameters and was apparently able to direct Victoria’s actions with or maybe even without her say so. Looking through the hole she had disappeared through, he realized he didn’t have a choice but to sit and wait for her. There was no way he’d be able to follow her. He was just realizing this fact when the first gunshots erupted from above.